but then tim told me that HE, early on in his sabbatical, felt for the first time ready to consider a move to Grand Rapids as a viable option.
then, jenn emailed me and said, “okay, so move here!” and, “tony says i should ‘call you home.'” they went on to explain that the harvest in stockbridge is plentiful, that workers are needed, and that they would love to work shoulder to shoulder with us there.
i have not been considering this as a real option; had not let my mind explore the possibility of that. “but,” i wrote to Him in my journal on 2/28, “jesus, i will listen to YOUR voice, and walk under YOUR yoke, not the desires of any other people. it is YOU i am following and whom tim is following and YOU will perfectly lead us as we walk with You. will will walk to grand rapids with You or we will continue to walk with You here in madison. i trust You. Please show us which way to go.”
so i began to allow myself to think about what it might be like to return to Grand Rapids, and to the Stockbridge Boiler Room. i have been so home-sick for it. and we are being invited back, to step back into that beloved and vibrant community, to love its neighborhood, to shepherd its flock, to labor alongside a family we love and whose calling and mission overlap with what we believe ours to be. these benefits, alongside the loosening of several ties that have kept us anchored in madison, seem to make this an obvious and lovely invitation to say yes to.
so, we retreated a weekend at the tendero’s hytta (that same, wonderful place we spent the first three days of our marriage) the first weekend in March. we wanted to get away to seek His guidance about this.
when i have thought about the questions for which i want answers from God, much of it comes down to questions about my Life Work. how badly i yearn for a clear and unique calling on my life and marriage. yet as i listened to Him that weekend at the hytta, mostly what i heard was lines from scripture, not a voice speaking an intensely personal set of instructions. i heard scriptures like these:
- He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (micah 6:8)
- Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (james 1:27)
- Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?… If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (isaiah 58:5-12)
- and the sermon on the mount
and these are the things that we DO know. we know them because they are in His word. they are the calling of every person who follows in the footsteps of jesus. and we know them also because these commands are in our hearts, uniquely. the prayer pictures we had of our marriage before our wedding even occurred center around these themes: of being joined together for the sake of others who are poor and whom we will feed. we have known, first individually and then as a couple, that this call to love the poor in concrete and incarnational ways is planted deep.
and we sense that, whatever geography we choose, and whatever community we align ourselves with, we have a holy responsibility to be faithful to that which we do know (phil 3:16).
i see now that in many ways i have been waiting on our community here in madison to want to go there with us, and have been stalling on acting on it because we would be acting alone in many regards, which felt lonely and improper. and part of the reason that i have longed for home is because there is a community that has this call a bit more integrated into their daily lives and outlook, thereby making it a more natural place to live out of our convictions.
but the action or inaction of our community, the shared conviction or lack thereof, is not to be the deciding factor in our own obedience. here and now, starting with the two of us, we follow our hearts, build our family culture, and follow jesus in the ways he has called us to.
this, we realized, is freeing. it makes us free if we were to remain here, and it keeps us free as we plan to return to stockbridge. because now we have owned it, taken responsibility for the obedience it demands. i wonder if this is part of what jesus means when he says that we must hate our relatives, even our own life, in order to follow Him. (luke 14:26).
yes, we’re being called Home.
that happily means we are literally called home to Grand Rapids, but more importantly and most truly, it means being called Home to His heart, called Home to the calling He has already put in us, to be faithful to it.